Photographer Diane Arbus was born March 14, 1923 in New York City. She was born born Diane Nemerov and married Allan Arbus at the age of 18. While Diane had always shown an interest in art, it was Allan who taught her photography.
They had two daughters: Doon was born in 1945 and Amy was born in 1954.
Together Allan and Diane began a career in fashion and advertising. They made quite a successful team, but in the late 1950’s Diane began to branch out on her own.
Diane studied people from behind her lens, but she was fascinated by the odd or the unusual. She travelled into New York City parks, hotels and even morgues photographing people that were essentially outcasts. As a photographer, she captured a darker side of humans. Her portraiture pressed the boundaries for viewers; making people uncomfortable looking at her photos. The personal lives that she captured made the viewer want to look away. Her scenes were too private to look too long.
Her subjects were people with mental or physical disabilities, travelling circus and sideshow “freaks”, and even visiting a morgue to photograph the dead. Diane was intrigued by them and related to the fact that they were outsiders. She would go to great lengths to capture the best shot and in many cases became friendly with her subjects.
By 1960 her several of her portraits were published in an issue of Esquire, and by the mid 1960’s Diane’s accomplishments were getting a great deal of attention. Friendships with other photographic greats such as Richard Avedon and Walker Evans grew.
She taught photography at the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Union in New York City, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. The first major exhibition of her photographs occurred at the Museum of Modern Art in a 1967 show called "New Documents".
Perhaps Diane’s most well known photograph is “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962”. The image of child Colin Wood awkwardly clenching a toy grenade in his right hand with a maniacal expression on his face is haunting.
While her professional life grew, her personal life deteriorated. Diane’s marriage ended in 1969, followed by depression. Both Diane and her mother struggled with depression throughout life, but on July 26, 1971 Diane took barbiturates and slashed her wrist with a razor. Her body was found two days later.